"We are interested in providing service to Cuba from multiple U.S. cities, as soon as legally permitted. Our existing charter program to and from Cuba has given us valuable experience in the market and a strong foundation for future expansion," said JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston.
Rules still apply
Experts in travel to the island noted that the new regulations exempt some but not all groups from the requirement of traveling in an organized group rather than as individuals.
Those exempt include Cuban-Americans, journalists and people traveling for government or business reasons. But ordinary travelers will still need, at least for the moment, to book through a tour operator, which will still be responsible for ensuring the itinerary meets Treasury regulations and does not constitute pleasure tourism.
That regulation "implicitly bars individual travel which forces it to remain under the table," said John McAuliff, who has arranged licensed trips to Cuba on behalf of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.
Augusto Maxwell, head of the Cuba practice at Miami law firm Akerman, said the new rules were a blessing to American business travelers who have long been constrained by a $180 per diem limit on spending by the Treasury Department. That limit has been lifted under the new rules.
Previously, U.S. business travelers wanting to visit high-end restaurants and sample expensive rums and cigars had to tread carefully in Cuba to avoid scrutiny. "The older rules were nudge-nudge, wink-wink. These rules are very clear," he said.
David Campbell, marketing director at AllTheRooms.com, an accommodation search engine, urged U.S. travelers to go now, before direct flights and cruise ships made the island 90 miles (140 km) south of Florida too accessible.
That said, while tourism has developed strongly over the last two decades and Cuba is used to visitors from Canada, Europe and Latin America, the island still lacks a wide choice of high-end hotels and other tourism.